on Writing & Publishing

Say Less

When you say less, you emphasize more.

You may not be able to say more, but what you do say will be heard. 

Half attention becomes full attention.

Scanned writing becomes writing that is read.

Discarded opinions become opinions that are taken into consideration.

Saying less increases the emphasis on what is said. Saying more increases the time, effort, and expense required to listen.

Loud communication is repulsive. Succinct communication is inviting.

You are statistically guaranteed to reach more ears by talking more; it's easy to get attention by publishing every day. But talking and publishing every day are not the only ways to practice and improve communication. 

You can write and ruminate every day without talking and publishing every day. What you do makes up the difference between receiving attention and holding attention. 

Would you rather have people hearing you or listening to you?

Leave a Reply for Sue Cancel Reply

Write a Comment

Comment

33 Comments

    • Thank you, Sandra!

      I think it’s about clarity and focus more than frequency: We can certainly hold our readers attention publishing every day if what we’re publishing comes across crystal clear and provides consistant value.

      Seth Godin publishes every day, but when people read his stuff they really read it. And they come back because he consistently proves that A) he knows what he’s talking about, and B) he’s focused so intently on a specific topic that his readers consistently get value from what he writes.

      Having that type of clarity takes focus and practice, lots and lots of practice. And I believe that practice should mostly be done in private, ruminating and writing for ourselves to gain clarity of thought.

      Only then, when we feel ready to share (or when we determine we need to hear what others think to help solidify our thoughts), should we then take our thoughts public.

      If our goal is attention, then it really doesn’t matter how clear our thoughts are. As long as we publish something half-way decent, we’ll get people’s attention (humans are naturally curious).

      But if our goal is to grow and share our discoveries with others, we should take however much time is necessary to fully explore.

  1. Hey Raam –

    I am doing this exact thing with my new project Pause & Ponder (http://pauseandponder.com)

    Key Points of P&P:
    -Only a few sentences
    -Design that doesn’t scream, but welcomes while not just being white a la your site and ZH (sorry…I like some design…still simple though)
    -Comments only allowed via Google Plus (zero moderating on my side.
    -Plus most of the points you mention here.

    Feedback so far is great and visits are jumping quickly. Only been live for 8 days and is amazing.

    How I run Pause & Ponder:
    -Use OmmWriter on Mac w/ headphones
    -Write/Edit (10 Minutes)
    -Post to WordPress (3 minutes)
    -Move on

    In less than 15 minutes per day, I am able to share thoughts, ideas and beliefs in quality content that doesn’t require scrolling.

    Anyways, that’s my long winded way of saying I enjoy your post and practice what you preach.

    David Damron
    PauseandPonder.com

    • Hey David,

      I love your Pause & Ponder project — very true to the philosophy of ‘Say Less’! 🙂 I also love the simplicity of the idea and how you’ve lowered the barrier from conception to publish so that you’re more willing to write and share.

      I’ve been doing a similar project with my Thoughts. I’m working up to writing and sharing at least one ‘thought’ every day. These thoughts are concise points on something specific, something that is clear and succinct enough to be “quote-worthy”.

      This exercise has really helped me focus my thoughts, create value every day, and open myself up to sharing more of what’s going on inside, even if it’s on subjects that may be unrelated to whatever else I write about.

      Thanks for sharing your new project here!

  2. The purpose behind this piece is why I’m choosing to focus on the “real life” side of things for now.

    My whole presence/attention when functioning as a therapist is the most valuable gift I have…aside from love, of course. I find that I’m more incisive than I am when “just” a human.

    I’m pulling away from the endless digital waves, resting on the shores of Home and Family.
    While I treasure what the waves have brought me (you, for one) it’s too easy to lose strength & drown. And it’s even easier to get swallowed up by what is popular rather than what is right.

    Thank you, for being you. 🙂

    • Hey Jeanie,

      I hear you on the “endless digital waves”. I think how we individually process and share things determines how well we’ll be able to harness the power of those waves.

      If you discover that you really need the offline, face-to-face connection to maintain your strength and connection with reality, then you should definitely cultivate offline connections and figure out how the online world can compliment that.

      I, for example, have absolutely no trouble ignoring “what’s popular” or keeping my head above water in the sea of information and chatter. But that’s because I process communication, connection, and information differently than you do. 🙂

      What’s most important, I feel, is that we recognize our strengths and weaknesses and maintain focus on the direction we want to go (something that I’m constantly working on).

      Without knowing our direction, we’ll say more than we need to, do more than we need to, and end up in all the wrong places without getting anywhere.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. 🙂

  3. This was a brilliant reminder that more isn’t always better. Thank you for this post and it is something that I am going to be considering over the next few days – do I want to be heard or listened to? (I have a feeling it’s both.)

    • I think we need both, Tamara. Without listening, who will be heard? And without being heard, who will be listening? I think we need to aim for a balance between the two, and when in doubt, to be quiet and listen (as that’s the best way to learn).

  4. This is well said, Raam.

    One of my favorite quotes, from Kierkegaard:

    “Some things that are true when whispered are no longer true when shouted.”

    Shalom,
    Caleb

  5. Hi and thank you for this post. While I don’t publish writings, I have been teaching yoga for 15 years, a different kind of communication. And the “say less” approach is something I’ve been working on for several years now.

    I’ve always felt that while I need to communicate the teachings, if I can use less words and allow everyone to drop into that place of stillness then the magic happens. They will “get it” more if I don’t constantly adjust or cue, etc.

    I guide people into the poses and we hang out, breathing, and I do my best to “get out of the way” for a minute. I watch and listen, breathing gets slower and without a doubt someone’s head will suddenly pop up, they look around as if “where am I? what are we doing”? All I can do is smile and know they completely and totally let go…even for 30 seconds…they stopped and enjoyed that moment. The only moment.

    Thank you so much for your writings. I love what you said: “succinct communication is inviting”. In my situation, inviting my classes to completely let go and be in this moment.

    • Sue, what a wonderful approach to teaching!

      Real discovery comes from within, through discovering something inside that we didn’t know was already there. I think the best teachers act as guides, showing us the way but allowing the student to take the journey for themselves.

      If we’re always talking — always instructing, always teaching, always injecting our ego into the situation — then we leave no room for self-discovery. And it’s through self-discovery that we really learn. 🙂

  6. I like the question “Is what I’m about to say an improvement on silence?” When I was focued on a particular topic each month earlier this year, I posted more frequently. Now I am posting about twice a week, but only if I have something I think is worth saying. Great post.

  7. Hi Raam,
    This post brings up a beautiful memory for me.
    I am an art therapist and was engaged in a one on one session with a 6 year old who was a selective mute. When my supervisor first gave me her case, my goal was all about working towards her verbal communication. I became so fixated on this that after the first few sessions, I felt myself melting away with emotional exhaustion.

    I realized through supervision meetings and self reflection that not only was I making our sessions about me, but I was also pushing her away.

    My role was to provide a therapeutic presence, to facilitate her expression through art and to establish an environment where finally, someone was allowing her to own the control she chose to have over her speech.

    I recall one moment much further into our sessions where we were sitting side by side, creating art together and she leaned her head against my arm. She then quickly looked up at me and we simultaneously smiled at each other. We continued to create for the remainder of the session in silence and comfort, with her head leaning against my arm

    Sometimes less really is more. Moments where we can be emotionally present are a gift.

    Thank you Raam for your writing and insight,
    Tali

    • Tali, this is an amazing story — thank you for sharing it here!

      I think this same story plays out every day, all around us, in more subtle ways: people wanting to be heard, wanting to share a moment of silence, wanting to just “be”, but instead being caught in the torrent of noise, expectations, and fear.

      Being present isn’t easy, but as you said it’s a gift, the best gift we can give ourselves and those around us. And by saying less and remaining present to the moment, we’re one step closer to being who we really are.

  8. This seems to be a popular topic. I just wrote about this in a post called Hello Old Friend and there was a conversation on Google+ about it. Brevity is always best. But content remains elite. Sometimes a longer post is required. Sometimes an explanation in a conversation is needed – sometimes it is best to just not explain.

    • I agree, Nicole, sometimes a longer post is required. And sometimes we need to push publish without fully understanding the topic we’re writing about because it’s through getting feedback that we learn and grow around the topic being discussed.

      I don’t believe content itself is what’s elite, but rather that content exists at all. More content is not better content, but more content increases the chance you’ll publish something useful and/or relevant. However, using that strategy ignores the growth mechanisms innately built into all of us: the power to think.

      But as you mentioned, conversations are powerful. If we can couple thoughtful conversations with real action, then I think there’s no need to limit those conversations!

  9. A great reminder Raam and some beautiful comments too. As a coach and mentor I know the words I say are important but more important is the presence and intention I bring to my interaction with each person I work with. As the saying goes, less is more.

    • Thank you, Jen. I feel that the comments here are a perfect example of that: it’s not that everyone here is leaving words in the comments, but rather that everyone is present to the topic we’re discussing and that the comments demonstrate an intention to think about what was written. Very powerful!

  10. I thoroughly enjoyed this essay and your words.
    Thank you
    I have to edit every post with considerable effort, because I am often far too wordy – always working on sharing one idea well helps

    • Thank you, Patricia. What you mentioned about being too wordy reminded me how knowing ourselves also plays an important part in the process of saying less.

      For example, I know that I’m inclined to say less because that’s my nature (I spend a lot of time thinking). In fact, I probably need to work at saying more and not allowing my perfectionism to get in the way of sharing things that I feel are important to share (my newly launched Journal has been incredibly therapeutic in this regard).

      That said, I think saying enough is a balance that will always be something we need to work towards. 🙂

  11. Raam, I’m thankful for one more reminder today (the day I’m reading your post for the first time) that saying less (and more) is a good goal to aim for.

    You mentioned in your reply to Jeanie that you have no trouble staying above water when the conversations around you threaten to wash away your focus, because you process information and communication differently.

    I find myself slightly jealous of this ability to quickly and easily sift through information and organize it in a clear way. If there is one thing in all my creative process that is ten times more difficult than the rest, it is this ability (or lack of it).

    It’s precisely because it’s so challenging that I keep at it every possibly day. “That kind of clarity takes lots of practice.” When I feel like I’m behind the curve, this truth is all that really matters. That I practice.

    Because I tend toward saying too much, my experiment this month in simplicity is going to be in communication, in saying more by saying less.

    Thank you for your thoughts on this! I look forward to continuing to follow your thoughts!

    Terrisa

    • Hi Terrisa,

      Welcome, and thank you for sharing your thoughts here! 🙂

      I do (usually) find it easy to block out external communication when I need to focus, but I certainly haven’t “perfected” doing so! There are still plenty of times when I feel overwhelmed by external stimuli and find the need to put on headphones. Sometimes even my own thoughts and ideas — my inner voice — becomes overwhelming and I feel like I’m going to suffocate underneath the weight of it all.

      But that’s when I step back and let gravity pull that weight to the ground. I let go of any self-imposed expectations around what I should or shouldn’t be capable of handling. It helps to remember that we can’t possibly do everything or be everyone, but we can be ourselves. We don’t need to learn everything or know everyone. It’s OK to live exploring and creating from within a small subset of of existence, because within that small subset of existence exists eternity. 🙂

Webmentions

  • Aparecido Leite January 9, 2012

    Minimal lifestyle — Say Less. When you say less, you emphasize more — http://t.co/xMqnox3F

  • Denis Lanz January 9, 2012

    Raam Dev: Say Less http://t.co/jUJlDXiB (via Instapaper)

  • Aleksandar Diklic January 9, 2012

    RT @RaamDev Say Less http://t.co/3Y2E28b2

  • Biguá January 9, 2012

    Say Less. When you say less, you emphasize more — http://t.co/X3Dg0jEv

  • Aparecido H. Leite January 9, 2012

    Say Less. When you say less, you emphasize more — http://t.co/X3Dg0jEv

  • Aparecido H. Leite January 9, 2012

    Minimal lifestyle — Say Less. When you say less, you emphasize more: http://t.co/X3Dg0jEv

  • pj_collins January 9, 2012

    Say Less: http://t.co/mOHhOiP6

  • Tyler Payne January 9, 2012

    Say Less: http://t.co/mOHhOiP6

  • sulemaan January 9, 2012

    +1 RT @sabbatical: Say Less: http://t.co/lmswib7e

  • Adam King January 9, 2012

    Say Less: http://t.co/mOHhOiP6

  • Matt D'Avella January 9, 2012

    Say more http://t.co/x2BmjfkB or say less http://t.co/6B9HIKVV? via @RaamDev

  • patriciaswisdom January 9, 2012

    RT @RaamDev Say Less http://t.co/hgTqsJMl

  • Jen Smith January 9, 2012

    “Is what I’m about to say an improvement on silence?” http://t.co/YOscpV57

  • Manuel Loigeret January 9, 2012

    If you want to be listened to –> RT @raamdev Say Less http://t.co/00qNdnMs

  • Ankur Jalota January 9, 2012

    When you say less, you emphasize more. http://t.co/7KFX9GFF

  • Adine January 9, 2012

    RT @RaamDev Say Less http://t.co/5Q1aNyGJ

  • Thom Chambers January 9, 2012

    “Is what I’m about to say an improvement on silence?” http://t.co/YOscpV57

  • Treehousechatter January 9, 2012

    RT @raamdev Say Less http://t.co/HB4aGpd3

  • roundballnz January 9, 2012

    http://t.co/EuJii4CR – Brilliant!

  • Steve Marquez January 9, 2012

    RT @raamdev Say Less http://t.co/BKctre1W

  • Caroline Leon January 9, 2012

    'Tis true. http://t.co/ARlNwcxC

  • Dan Goodwin January 9, 2012

    Would you rather have people hearing you or listening to you?
    http://t.co/N6awR1nF via @raamdev

  • Derek Earl Baron January 9, 2012

    RT @RaamDev Say Less http://t.co/pfHbmVMs

  • Ali Dark January 9, 2012

    RT @RaamDev Say Less http://t.co/pfHbmVMs

  • Tamara Epps January 9, 2012

    RT @raamdev Say Less http://t.co/Uz0ycy2v

  • きつね こねこ January 9, 2012

    Say less > http://t.co/7lzriZn9

  • Matt D'Avella January 9, 2012

    Simple but profound message from @RaamDev "Say Less" http://t.co/cMA66Dxf

  • Christopher January 9, 2012

    When you say less, you emphasize more… http://t.co/aO2xwCt8 by @RaamDev

  • Torbjorn Rive January 9, 2012

    mantra of Funk: it's where the notes aren't RT @raamdev Say Less http://t.co/nshQw4wA

  • Ricardo M Rodriguez January 9, 2012

    Great post my friend @RaamDev .Say Less http://t.co/q51HHOlT

  • Jaimi Pike January 9, 2012

    Say Less "Loud communication is repulsive. Succinct communication is inviting." http://t.co/cxmtOybK

  • Solomon Freimuth January 9, 2012

    RT @raamdev Say Less http://t.co/LdUkKGAX

  • Sandra Pawula January 9, 2012

    Say Less "Loud communication is repulsive. Succinct communication is inviting." http://t.co/cxmtOybK

  • Jonika Moore-Diggs January 9, 2012

    Simple yet profound! Thanks for sharing RT @AlishaSommer: RT @raamdev Say Less http://t.co/wfBB2i1e

  • Alisha January 9, 2012

    RT @raamdev Say Less http://t.co/aao2ZSDo

  • Esther van der Wal January 9, 2012

    RT @RaamDev: Say Less – http://t.co/n6rlvgGQ

  • Alfredo Jenks January 9, 2012

    Say Less http://t.co/tqeiUyx5

  • Jackie Torres January 9, 2012

    Say Less http://t.co/2jfWhVjI

  • Lynn Fang January 9, 2012

    RT @RaamDev Say Less http://t.co/r6FETK1D

  • Stephen Bore January 9, 2012

    Loud communication is repulsive. Succinct communication is inviting. http://t.co/YYR6s26N

  • Alyson Earl January 9, 2012

    RT @RaamDev Say Less http://t.co/rxF5dmEd<—LOVE!

  • Dave Ursillo January 9, 2012

    Say Less "Loud communication is repulsive. Succinct communication is inviting." http://t.co/cxmtOybK